Quinoa is a whole grain that offers many nutritional and health benefits. It can provide a good source of protein, fiber, antioxidants, and more.

Although people can cook and eat quinoa seeds in a similar way to most grains, the quinoa plant itself is more similar to beetroots and spinach. People can eat both the seeds and leaves of this versatile, nutritious plant.

This article looks at the evidence-based health benefits of quinoa. It also discusses the nutritional content of quinoa and how to add it to the diet.

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Below are some of the health benefits of regularly consuming quinoa.

A plant-based source of protein

People following a plant-based diet need to find nonanimal sources of protein to ensure they are getting enough.

One cup of cooked quinoa weighing 185 grams (g) provides 8.14 g of protein.

The proteins in quinoa offer a wide range of amino acids. Amino acids are vital for supporting muscle development and immune activity, among other essential functions.

This makes quinoa an excellent dietary choice for people following a vegetarian or vegan diet.

Quinoa, unlike many other grains, is also an excellent source of lysine. This is an essential amino acid. Lysine is vital for the synthesis of proteins. It plays a role in processes such as growth and development.

Learn more about plant-based sources of protein.

High fiber content

Quinoa has a high fiber content compared with other grains, providing 5.18 g in a single 185 g cup. Adults require 22–34 g of fiber daily, depending on their age and sex.

According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, consuming enough fiber can help reduce the risk of several health conditions, including constipation, high cholesterol, high blood sugar levels, and diverticulosis.

Diets rich in fiber may also promote weight management. This is because foods high in fiber help people feel fuller for longer, potentially reducing a person’s overall intake of food.

Learn more about why people need dietary fiber.

A source of antioxidants

Quinoa is a good source of antioxidants compared with other common grains in a gluten-free diet. Most gluten-free products consist of corn, rice, or potato flour. These generally provide fewer nutrients than products using quinoa, such as quinoa flour.

Quinoa provides vitamin E. This is an antioxidant compound that may help reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, certain cancers, and several eye disorders.

Helps meet manganese requirements

One cup of cooked quinoa contains 1.17 milligrams (mg) of manganese. The daily adequate intake of manganese for adults is between 1.6 mg and 2.6 mg.

Manganese is essential for development and metabolism. This element also works alongside many enzymes in the body to support their function.

Good source of iron

One cup of quinoa supplies 2.76 mg of iron. Adults assigned male at birth should aim for 8–11 mg of iron per day, while adults assigned female at birth should aim for 8–15 mg per day. During pregnancy, a person should aim for 27 mg of iron.

Iron is necessary for a range of processes in the human body. For example, it is an essential part of hemoglobin. This compound carries oxygen in the blood, supporting energy and cell function throughout the body.

Adequate iron intake also supports healthy connective tissue and muscle metabolism.

Read more on the role of iron in the body.

A source of folate

Folate is an essential B vitamin that plays a key role in the formation of DNA. It is particularly important that people obtain enough folate during pregnancy to reduce the chance of neural tube defects in their babies, according to the Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS).

Getting enough dietary folate might also reduce the risk of several cancers and depression.

One cup of cooked quinoa contains 77.7 micrograms (mcg) of folate. Adults should aim for 400–600 mcg of dietary folate equivalents (DFEs).

Pregnant people may only be able to get enough folate by taking folic acid supplements. However, it is important to contact a doctor before taking any supplements.

Provides magnesium

One cup of cooked quinoa contains 118 mg of magnesium. Adults should aim for 310–420 mg per day, depending on sex and age.

Magnesium is essential for the function of more than 300 enzymatic reactions and is present in every cell of the body.

The ODS suggest that low levels of magnesium have possible links to the following health concerns:

However, more research is necessary to confirm the effects of dietary magnesium on these conditions.

Contains quercetin and kaempferol

Quinoa contains the plant compounds quercetin and kaempferol.

These antioxidants may protect against a range of chronic conditions. For example, according to some research, kaempferol may help protect against infection, heart disease, diabetes, and several cancers.

Quercetin may also help boost the body’s defenses against infection and inflammation.

Plant experts classify quinoa as a pseudocereal, not a grain. This means that it is a nongrassy plant that food producers can use in much the same way as cereals and grains. It also has a similar nutritional profile.

Manufacturers can mill or grind the seeds of pseudograins into flour, as with other grains and cereals.

Nutritionally, quinoa is a whole grain. Whole grains include the entire grain seed without removing any of its parts.

Whole grains provide essential vitamins, minerals, and fiber that might otherwise not be available after removing parts of the grain.

Quinoa is naturally gluten free.

One cup (185 g) of cooked quinoa provides:

  • 222 calories
  • 8.14 g of protein
  • 5.18 g of fiber
  • 3.55 g of fat, of which 0.43 g is saturated
  • 39.4 g of carbohydrate

Quinoa is highly nutritious and can provide a large portion of a person’s daily requirement or adequate intake for several important nutrients, including:

  • magnesium
  • manganese
  • folate
  • phosphorus
  • copper
  • iron
  • zinc
  • potassium
  • vitamin B1
  • riboflavin
  • vitamin B6

The same amount of quinoa contains traces of vitamin E, vitamin B3, and calcium.

Quinoa contains bitter tasting compounds called saponins that keep insects away without the need of pesticides. They are especially concentrated in the outer coating of quinoa. Manufacturers can remove saponins by washing quinoa before consumption.

Although producers of most packaged quinoa have already removed most of the saponins, people may wish to give it an extra rinse before consuming it.

It is easy to incorporate quinoa into the diet. People can use it instead of rice in any recipe. Its small grains cook to tender in as little as 15 minutes.

Quinoa has a subtle nutty taste that makes it a very versatile ingredient. It can play a role in baking or as a breakfast grain. Quinoa also works well in hot side dishes, cold salads, and burgers.

Learn about saponin allergies.

Here are some frequently asked questions about quinoa.

Is quinoa any healthier than rice?

Quinoa typically contains more nutrients than rice. Some people may choose to use quinoa as a substitute for rice.

Is quinoa a protein or carb?

Quinoa is a plant-based source of protein that also contains a good source of carbohydrate. One cup (185 g) of cooked quinoa contains 39.4 g of carbohydrate and 8.14 g of protein.

Can a person eat quinoa every day?

Eating quinoa regularly can help a person receive many essential nutrients. It is important to consume a balanced diet, with a variety of fruits and vegetables. A person may choose to add quinoa to a variety of dishes.

Quinoa is a gluten free whole grain that contains many nutrients. It can provide a good source of plant-based protein, fiber, antioxidants, manganese, iron, folate, and magnesium.

Quinoa has a subtle nutty flavor. A person can add it to a variety of dishes, such as salads, or use it in place of rice.

A person can contact their doctor or a registered dietitian for more information about the health benefits of quinoa and ways to incorporate it into their diet.